Visiting the Pantry

Food, Homeless, Lifestyle

This page may be helpful to anyone requiring food pantry services, however, I’d like to preface with a reminder that my city, Winston-Salem boasts many food pantries and clothing closets free to those in need. I’ve compiled a calendar containing several of the pantries in the area.

Who Uses Food Pantries?

Food pantries are for those in need of food sustenance they cannot acquire by some other legal method. In the US, food pantries are often considered “supplemental” to an individual’s / family’s income-provided groceries OR as a secondary supplement to food stamps. The list of pantry-goers and food stamp beneficiaries ranges widely from the homeless job seeker to the hardworking individual who’s barely scraping by despite working long hours.

What should I bring to the pantry?

Bring your current…

  • …state issued ID and military / Veteran ID / discharge paperwork [Form DD-214] if applicable.
  • …up to 4 recent pay stubs or other proof of income – keep supervisor / hiring manager name / phone number handy just in case [please don’t worry, you shouldn’t need it].
  • …utility / rent bill OR your lease [proof of address].
  • social security numbers for the whole household.
  • wheeled cart, bags or boxes to get your pantry items home.
  • …a good book, some busywork or a portable phone charger in case you have to wait awhile.

Do I need a special card / ID to gain access to a food pantry? 

Pantries that require a card ask that you fill out paperwork during your first visit there and you usually get the card before you leave with your food that day. Be sure to keep these safe.

Some pantries do require a bit of upfront paperwork. A couple of noteworthy ones local to me are Crisis Control Ministries and Sunnyside Ministries. Please note that per their website, Sunnyside offers full food and some financial services ONLY to zip codes 27107 and 27127 in Winston-Salem, NC. Please see this webpage for more information on services and assistance they offer.

What if I’ve no way to get to the pantry & cannot afford public transit?

I recommend…

  • start with WSTA – according to their website, they do at times allow individuals one free ride in a day. You should offer to pay whatever you can, though. [During COVID-19, WSTA is providing free service; please thank your driver. Drivers are also providing masks to anyone who has forgotten theirs.]
    • Speak to the drivers, they don’t bite. You may be able to work something out for one day to go to one pantry — if this is possible, make it count by visiting the most generous pantry you’ve found.
  • if WSTA won’t help, reach out to Goodwill Industries to inform them of your circumstances. If you’re active duty military, a veteran, or dependent of either, be sure to mention that.
  • current / active duty military call Military One Source to request their advisement [veterans could do this as well, but keep in mind they are strictly a resource liaison].
  • veterans should call their VA sponsor to ask about a duty driver or someone affiliated with the VA to help them to and from pantries.
  • anyone else should call Forsyth County DSS or ask 211 for their advisement.

As always if you’re aware of any updates or edits to this page, please feel free to email me.

Important Documents Packet

Homeless, Lifestyle, Military Family, Uncategorized

Everyone needs proper documentation to prove their identification — particularly during an emergency, or when applying for assistance. If you’ve lost your government-issued documents, there are links near the end of this post – I hope they help to replace them.

I recommend every family have a packet containing important documents. Military spouses often purchase extra copies of everything and put one in a safe place such as a safe deposit box or with a trusted friend / family member. My important documents folder has actually saved us a couple times. I recommend that if you’re in a family, one individual be in charge of the folder system. Each individual should have their own personal folder, but there is one keeper of all the documents. This keeper should have all the originals and guard them at [almost] all costs.

What do I need in my packet?
  • Birth certificates for every household member.
  • Marriage certificate – get it notarized.
  • Passports.
  • Social Security Cards.
  • Driver’s Licenses or State IDs.
  • Military / Military Spouse IDs / CAC Cards.
  • Proof of ownership of any high-dollar item [land, vehicle, house, boat, granny’s pearl earrings that are “too valuable to wear”].
  • Personal banking info IF you have no way of logging onto the internet to check on it [such as a smartphone].
  • If possible, notarized copies of any Identification. I would also recommend having access to up to $50 in the event that you find you need a copy notarized. It cost something like $25 to get a copy of my birth certificate notarized in 2009.
  • Military discharge forms, such as form DD-214 and any other forms pertinent to your service.
  • Medical forms — especially for military / prior military. Veterans should visit their local VA center for information on obtaining their records.
  • Copy of any prescriptions or the contact information for the medical professional who prescribed them.
  • ID or punch cards for your local food pantry.
  • Tickets for your local public transit, or the cash to acquire them or gas for your vehicle.
  • Gift cards to get your family through a couple meals.
  • Pet info including service animal identification [I’d fold a bandana with “SERVICE ANIMAL” or “DO NOT PET” etc. on it into the packet].
  • Powers of Attorney.

When we were homeless, I kept all our papers in a clear sheet protector which then fit perfectly into a bubble envelope.

What if I’ve lost my documents?
How can I prove my identity as a homeless individual without any proof of identification or address?

Start by checking to see if you have a bank account, the card or checks for it, and a method of accessing it. I recommend having at least online access to your account{s} because even homeless, you can log in, and phone or chat with your banking establishment to try to access and utilize your account. If this is not possible, let’s find a way around that:

  1. Panhandle – in NC, people can acquire a free panhandler ID which allows one to panhandle. The instruction here is “get cash”.
  2. Use a portion of funds received from panhandling to acquire a prepaid card with something like Western Union [be aware of any fees associated with the card you choose].
  3. Hop onto GoFundMe and Facebook. Inform your friends and followers of your circumstances. Make certain they are aware you are missing important identifying documentation and that you are attempting to replace them to improve upon your circumstances. As folks add cash to your prepaid card, you can then use that money to replace your IDs using the information provided earlier in this article.

Meanwhile, I would speak to EVERY service organization you can. I would open with that. “Hi. I’m homeless [and a veteran – if applicable] and I have no personal identification. Can you help, or connect me with someone who can?” Food pantries, Goodwill, Salvation Army, Red Cross, every charitable organization you find, shelters, hospitals… if no one is helping, find a church or a library and tell them. If that doesn’t work, take a day to rest and let the anger build. Then boldly go forth to the office of the mayor; I wish you all the best in your campaign.

Thank you for reading!


Survival by You

Homeless, Lifestyle, Military Family

Hardship is indiscriminate; it can happen to anyone with the best of intentions, morals, highest GPA and earning potential. No fingers may point and if it’s a consequence, it can and will consume any who bed down with their mistakes with any sense of permanence.

It starts off very simply — like a car crash in slow motion. There was a laundry list of occurrences in our case. Little things we would try to fix, but hit dead ends, unsure where to turn next. As my husband’s time in the Navy drew to a close, we were being told by many to go to our local JAG (military legal aid) office to report multiple legal concerns involving the separation. JAG never answered their phones and the recording didn’t include an address. I walked the entire base, asking everyone I met how to find them; no one knew… not even the friends and Drew’s co-workers who referred us. Even the FFSC was rendered useless as JAG had apparently relocated without telling anyone.

Over time, I melded together a make-do plan by the emblazoned brass of my lady balls. I came to realize my state of being is my attitude — homelessness, is an attitude. We became homeless, alright, but for us, it’s been an adventure in re-discovery of what’s truly important in life.

Ultimately, our survival depends on us. Your personal circumstances in life are no disqualifier, no matter what they are. Our original choices aren’t always the best. In our case, we re-defined success for ourselves making room to add value and joy to our lives. The pen is mightier than just about everything, swords included — you alone have the power to re-write your present story into the future.

Go get it.